the child’s game, Red Light, Green Light?
A leader turns his back on a group of friends and calls out “green light;”
then the kids run forward from a starting line until the leader says: “red
light,” and everyone must stop. Anyone caught still moving is sent back to the
starting line. Whoever makes it to the
finish line first becomes the new leader, and the game resumes. In some ways the financing of my daughter's movie, Keep the Change,
has resembled an extended, adult version of Red Light,Green Light. Two years have passed since the original short film won multiple awards at film festivals and received some early financing. After that, funding stalled and the world gave it a "red light, and the project stalled far from its bare-bones financial goal/finish line.
anymore! In the past month, Keep the Change
has successfully raised
100% of its $50,000 basic budget on the crowdfunding site, Seed & Spark.
That means the movie project has a green light and will start shooting next
month. For my daughter, Sarah, Brandon and the other cast members on the
autistic spectrum, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step into
the spotlight and show the neurotypical world what they are capable of
achieving as actors and as people. For Rachel Israel, a uniquely talented and
sensitive director, making the feature-length version of Keep the Change
culmination of a five year journey—from befriending Brandon Polansky (lead
actor) in college and wanting to tell his
“looking-for-love-when-you-have-autism” story, to casting my daughter as the
female lead, after auditioning 100 neurotypical actresses during her last
semester at Columbia University’s film school.
Hurrah for the determined director, eager cast and devoted crew!
thousand people either supported or contributed to “green lighting” Keep the Change
—too many to thank
individually in a single post (!!!) To
all the people on Facebook, Twitter and social media who felt moved to support
the project, I offer my deepest appreciation, because without YOU, the film’s
crowdfunding campaign would not have been successful. Of course my biggest “thank you” goes out to
my friends and family who gave generously with their dollars, time or both:
Robin Reinach, Andrew Cohen, Michael Cohen, Gail Cohen, Lisa & Barry West,
Paula Dennis, Anne D’Innocenzio and (of
course) my husband, Henry, who gently twisted a few arms.
not too late to donate! There’s still one day left (till midnight Friday, July
) to add flesh and muscle to the movie.Keep the Change
it to the critical $50,000 finish line, which covers principal photography with
a skeleton crew and meetings with VIP investors. What would happen if they
collected $75,000? That would pay for full equipment, full crew and complete
photography. How about $100,000?
Principal photography with a full crew and initial post-production costs
would be covered. We might as well shoot
for it, right?
until recent years, movie characters with disabilities were mostly depicted as
villains—like Captain Hook and Quasimodo—who were angered by their limitations
and wanted to retaliate against society.
In 1988—two years before my daughter was born on the spectrum—Dustin Hoffman
starred in Rain Man, playing an autistic savant, who was brilliant at numbers
and counting cards, but severely disabled and living in a mental
institution. Rain Man
won four Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Actor),
however, I believe it greatly stereotyped and misrepresented the vast majority
of people on the autistic spectrum (including my daughter). Although progress has been made in the
diagnosis and treatment of people on the autistic spectrum, many neurotypical people
still fail to understand or appreciate the mix of strengths and weaknesses
found in individuals with autism. It’s
my profound hope that films like Keep the
will help to educate neurotypical audiences about the different
perspectives of people with autism. Maybe just maybe the world will be a little
bit kinder and more accepting of people like Sarah and Brandon, if neurotypicals
can step into their shoes for an hour or two.
that time, we must rely on celebrity spokespeople, like deaf actress Marlee
Matlin, who recently addressed the ACLU to advance the rights of all people
with disabilities and break stereotypes. Matlin’s work in film and television
has earned her an Oscar and a Golden Globe among other award nominations Who could be a better role model—not just for
the deaf and hard of hearing, but for people with a variety of
disabilities—than Marlee Matlin, a successful actress AND a married mother of
four? In addressing a panel on People with Disabilities in Time of Economic
Crisis, Matlin revealed that more people with disabilities in the U.S. experience
poverty than all other minority, racial and ethnic groups combined! Further,
she added, “the cost of excluding disabled people from the workplace deprives
society of 2 TRILLION dollars in annual losses.” (!!!) With a wry smile, she concluded: “Though some people may think I live in a world of silence, silence is the last thing the world will ever hear from me.” Go Marlee and my Sarah too!
help give Keep the Change
the best and biggest chance it can have to change
people’s minds and hearts about people with disabilities. As Marlee Matlin
says: “Every one of us is different, but for those of us who are more
different, we have to convince the less different that we can do the same things,
Labels: ACLU, actors, autism, autistic spectrum, Captain Hook, disabilities, Dustin Hoffman, Keep the Change, love, Marlee Matlin, neurotypical, Quasimodo, Rachel Israel, Rain Man, Seed and Spark, villains